Hats Off to Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

A lot of people, including me, like Frank Sinatra’s singing. He’s a real professional and like Benny Goodman, he performed as a teenager, so by the time he reached his prime he was a consummate showman as well as a great singer.

And when he went into acting, he went all the way. Think of Elvis in all those stupid movies. Think of Frank Sinatra getting the shit beat out of him by Ernest Borgnine, or learning the steps in “Guys and Dolls.”

But leaving aside his musical and acting talents, I think Frank Sinatra made a fundamental positive change in American society that almost no one else could possibly have made. He simply announced that racism is uncool and his legions of adoring fans immediately discarded their ancestral prejudice.

And Frank reached a lot of people who could never be reached by Gandhi or Thoreau, people who didn’t devote much of their time and energy to confronting their inherited prejudices, guys (especially) who didn’t do too much deep thinking. You know what I mean?

When people — including the tough, mean guys — saw that Sammy Davis Jr., an African-American, was a member of the Rat Pack, they didn’t involve themselves in a lot of self-evaluation and discussion.

Frank snapped his fingers and they changed their attitude. Simple as that. It’s not often that one guy has that much power and uses it so effectively for the good of humanity.

I found a great article by Michael Nelson in Popular Music and Society about Frank Sinatra’s lifelong commitment to equality and justice.